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It’s Database Friday!

Literary Database Saves the Day or My Report Is Due Tomorrow and There’s a Hurricane Outside!

My peak experience with the Literary Reference Center began when a high school student and her mother appeared in the library one afternoon. “I need stories and poems that have something to do with medicine.” “Hmm,” I thought, “sounds like a job for LRC!”

Off I went into the “Advanced Search”, clicked on “uncheck all”, checked “poems” and “short stories”, and typed in “medicine”. Within moments mother and daughter had 109 poems and stories to choose from for the school project! All entries had full text! There was a poem called Medicine by Amy Gerstle from The Kenyon Review, a short story by Rick DeMarinis from the Atlantic Monthly called Medicine Man, and even a 1960 short story from Saturday Evening Post called Mystery Malady by Ronald Sercombe. Tabs separate poems and short stories, and you can sort by relevance, title, date, source, or author. Who knew that The Annals of Internal Medicine ever published short stories?

Mother and daughter left the library deliriously happy, and were delighted to know that they could do this from home as well. What could have been an ordeal turned into a tremendously positive library experience for us all. All thanks to LRC. So what else can it do? Well there is something called “The Reference Shelf” on the initial page that offers basic tools and guidance for doing research in literature. This includes a timeline of world literature (from antiquity to June 10, 2008, as I write this), Merriam Webster’s Encyclopedia of Literature, American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, and MLA, Chicago, and APA style citation help. As they say in the infomercials … but wait, there’s more! You can also find a Research Guide that includes articles on plagiarism; a step-by-step approach to writing a research paper; worst case scenario: my paper is nearly due and I’ve barely started; evaluating information sources; insights on how to read critically and a research glossary. All of this just a click away!

Browsing is another option available from the front page. You can browse by author’s name or by country, culture, genre, or movement tabs. Browse titles of works or browse by genre (absurdist literature to women’s literature, stopping at epistolary literature if you wish along the way), or even browse by locale (from “a country road” to Zurich).  Click on sign in and you can even create your own account that allows you to save search results, persistent links to searches, saved searches, search alerts, journal alerts and web pages to a personal folder. An RSS feed is even available to get updates on your searches! Know the date a poem appeared in a particular journal but can’t remember the author or title? Not a problem. Search publications, pick out Beloit Poetry Journal (for example) and you can look at individual issues.

Still not convinced? Here are the stats! Literary Reference Center contains full text for 31,098 plot summaries, synopses and work overviews, nearly 100,000 articles/essays of literary criticism, 140,000 author biographies (including 20,000 in-depth bios), 430 literary journals, 605,000 book reviews, 60,000 classic and contemporary poems, 15,000 classic and contemporary short stories, 5,200 author interviews, more than 7,100 classic texts and much more. Biographies, literary criticism, plot summaries, reviews, interviews, reference books, full text classics, periodicals, poems, short stories, and images. Now that’s one stop shopping!

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